Chinese officials are offering citizens financial rewards to snoop on “illegal religious activity venues.”
Bitter Winter reports that officials in Gushi county, Henan province, have offered citizens 500 RMB (around $70 or £57) to provide evidence like photos, videos and audio recordings.
Rewards are reportedly being offered to residents in the cities of Mengzhou, Jiyuan and Shangqiu.
One local government employee admitted to the website that the Chinese government feels threatened by the growth of Christianity.
“The government exerts strict control not only to curb the development of Three-Self churches but also ban house churches, for fear that they will help topple the regime,” they said.
China only recognizes the official Three Self Patriotic Church or the China Catholic Patriotic Association.
Many Christians refuse to attend these Churches because they fear government influence, and instead attend underground churches.
The crackdown on both official and unofficial churches in China has worsened under President Xi Jinping, with some churches ordered to display his picture in their buildings.
In one village in Shanxi province, Christians were told to display pictures of Chairman Mao or else have their welfare cut.
In Anhui, officials removed 250 crosses from churches between January and April this year.
The pastor of a Three Self Church in Hubei told Bitter Winter that government officials asked for a donation and when he informed them that they could not give any because it had been closed for months over coronavirus, he was instead told to spy on house churches.
He said he refused to do this on grounds of conscience.
“Officials told us that since we don’t have money to give to the government, we should encourage believers to spy on unregistered … venues and collect rewards for this. We would get enough money after several such reports, they said,” the pastor shared.
“We do know who attends house churches, but we won’t do things against our conscience. Everyone must have the right to practice their faith.”